Punts – Theatre 503, London

Writer: Sarah Page
Director: Jessica Edwards
Reviewer: Stephen Bates

The hardest part of parenting can be letting go, as Antonia and Alastair eventually come to realise in Sarah Page’s new one-act comedy. Their 25-year-old son Jack has learning difficulties, so perhaps they feel justified in keeping him on a short lead, but are they going too far when they decide to organise his sexual initiation?

tell-us-block_editedSet in an affluent, leafy South-West London suburb, the play begins with refreshing candour as Antonia prepares Jack to receive his visitor, a prostitute selected by her with meticulous care from a long list of possibles. Christopher Adams captures Jack’s diffidence as he anticipates the event with the same enthusiasm as for a trip to the dentist. Antonia goes out and the prostitute, Kitty (real name Julia) arrives, instructing Alastair to turn up the volume on the television before she goes upstairs.

Florence Roberts’ Kitty is calmly assured and professional and Jack duly rises to the occasion. Accepting that the subject matter is delicate, Page still tiptoes around the initiation scene too much and the play’s humour, grounded in awkwardness and embarrassment, begins to lose the bite that it had promised. This sets a pattern and much of what follows feels like a routine, toothless domestic comedy which Jessica Edwards’ production fails to ignite.

Jack calls himself “spazzy”, but, although Adams plays him touchingly, Page gives him dialogue that is savvier than seems right. With the play’s core theme dealt with in a few short scenes, the writer then embarks on exploring the consequences and does so in stages of decreasing plausibility. Having tasted the fruit once, Jack asks for a return visit, risking becoming too close to Kitty/Julia, but, with newly found confidence, he can now start a tentative relationship with a “spazzy” girl. We are left uncertain as to whether this is a good or bad thing.

Graham O’Mara’s too virtuous to be true Alastair is, predictably, tempted by the allure of the seductive Kitty and he sympathises with her plight when she is revealed as a vulnerable Julia. He has another Julia in mind when the prostitute inspires him to act out a scene from Pretty Woman with his wife and Clare Lawrence-Moody’s controlling Antonia has, by now, jumped from being the eager force behind her son’s treat to a possessive mother who is resentful of Julia. When Julia accuses Antonia, a stay-at-home housewife, of being a whore herself, she seems to hit her Achilles heel.

Page touches on some interesting themes, but they are under-developed and scattered so that the later parts of the play lack focus. Punts is well-intentioned and it starts out looking edgy and irreverent, but its efforts to err on the side of good taste end up making it feel bland.

Runs until 24 June 2017 | Image: Claudia Marinaro

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